The Trenton Thunder are ready to open their season this Thursday evening. Skipper Tony Franklin announced the Thunder’s initial five-man rotation at Tuesday’s media day. We did a piece profiling opening night starter Bryan Mitchell earlier here on Yanks Go Yard. Let’s take a look at the rest of the Thunder’s 2014 rotation:
Following Mitchell in the rotation will be Jeremy Bleich. Bleich is a lefty who was drafted in the first round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Stanford University. He made a nice showing in Trenton last season going 2-1 with a 2.76 ERA and 57 strikeouts over 65.1 innings. His setback has always been his control as he registered a 1.47 WHIP and a 5.4 BB/9 ratio in 2013. He’s known more for his assortment of breaking pitches than being a power pitcher.
Zach Nuding will take the ball next in the rotation. Nuding is a beast of a pitcher, standing at 6’4” and 250 pounds. He was drafted in the 30th round of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft. Known best for his fastball which tops out at 98 MPH but regularly hits between 94-96, his off speed stuff is inconsistent at best. He had a rather uninspiring season in Trenton last year as both a starter and reliever compiling a 5-11 record with a 4.21ERA and 101 strikeouts over 128.1 innings.
The fourth pitcher in the rotation will be Joel De La Cruz. De La Cruz first signed with the Milwaukee Brewers when he was 17-years-old out of the Dominican Republic. He eventually signed on with the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent in 2006. He missed all of 2007 and 2008 due to injuries. Last season, he was a jack of all trades for Tampa going 6-3 over 33 appearances (6 starts) with a 3.28 ERA, 73 strikeouts, and even notched a save.
Rounding out the rotation will be Matt Tracy. Tracy was selected by the Yankees in the 24th round of the MLB June Amateur Draft in 2011. He quickly rose up the ranks, making one start at Triple-A Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre in 2012. His first full season above Single-A did not go as planned. He registered a 4-5 record with a 5.52 ERA and 60 strikeouts over 63.2 innings last season with Tampa. Like Bleich, Tracy suffers from control issues as he recorded a 1.63 WHIP and a 5.2 BB/9 ratio. The big lefty, standing at 6’3” and 220 pounds, hits the mid-90s on his fastball and low 80s on his breaking stuff. This will be just his fourth year as a full-time pitcher, so expect to see improvement.
Should any of these pitchers struggle early, Jairo Heredia is waiting in the wings. He was signed in 2006 at 17-years-old out of the Dominican Republic by the Yankees. Heredia has made 77 minor league starts over 6 seasons, however aside from one 4 inning appearance at Triple-A last season, has never spent significant time above Single-A ball.
Franklin summed up his thoughts on his 2014 rotation at Tuesday’s media day. “I think we’ve got the five guys in there that the organization feels are going to be frontline guys, for right now. That’s not to say it couldn’t change at any moment. The game is always changing, and we’re always trying to make adjustments, but the guys that are in the rotation right now are going to be the guys that are going to be out there the first five games.”